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Denver’s Wax Trax Records rocks 40-year milestone as new doc traces famed label’s Mile High roots — The Know

Denver's Wax Trax Records rocks 40-year milestone as new doc traces famed label's Mile High roots — The Know

Duane Davis enters the compact disc retailer entrance of Wax Trax on Wednesday, October 31, 2018. The retailer has two places on 13th Road — one serves as a compact disc location and the opposite vinyl report albums. Wax Trax, a Denver landmark, has been working for greater than 40 years. House owners Duane Davis and Dave Stidman purchased the shop 40 years in the past and left behind careers as social staff. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Submit)

It’s a rain-spattered Saturday afternoon, and whereas Denver’s Wax Trax Records isn’t precisely quiet — a clerk pricing discs on the entrance counter is whistling alongside to the mariachi refrains of Calexico over the stereo — the nook document retailer is almost devoid of individuals.

A lone shopper flips by way of 45s towards the again, but the rows of waist-high bins brimming with shrink-wrapped CDs that fill the majority of the store’s floorspace draw scant consideration. When a younger lady does stroll in, it’s to purchase an Operation Ivy patch for her jacket.

Stroll two doorways down, although, to Wax Trax’s vinyl annex, and it’s a unique scene altogether. A dozen individuals navigate the sharp angles of the overstuffed store, pawing by means of data new and used, sliding 12-inch discs out of their sleeves to scan for scuffs and scratches. Some strategy the counter with small stacks to buy. The door creaks open and closed as a number of depart, and extra are available.

What goes round definitely has come round for Dave Stidman and Duane Davis, a pair of former social staff who purchased Wax Trax 40 years in the past this week, at a time when vinyl firmly dominated the music-retail roost — and now’s as soon as once more holding their Capitol Hill retailer alive.

“We have a lot of inertia going for us,” says Davis, with a smile, of his and Stidman’s means to climate the storms, on-line and in any other case, which have battered unbiased document shops because the late 1990s.

Now, as Stidman and Davis have fun their milestone, a new documentary is spotlighting the Denver origin story of Chicago’s Wax Trax! Records, the retail retailer and genre-defining document label that helped popularize industrial-flavored acts KMFDM, Ministry, Entrance 242, My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult and extra within the 1980s and early ’90s.

“Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records” screens Friday and Saturday nights on the Denver Movie Pageant.

The movie traces the trail of Jim Nash and Dannie Flesher, an brazenly homosexual couple at a time that wasn’t the norm, who opened Wax Trax’s unique Denver location in 1975, bought it to Stidman and Davis three years later and moved to Chicago. There, they operated the equally named retail retailer and document label into the ’90s. (Look to the perky exclamation level — Wax Trax vs. Wax Trax! — to inform the distinction between the Denver and Chicago iterations.)

“You probably don’t need someone like me to tell you that Duane and Dave have created an amazing legacy of their own,” Julia Nash, Jim Nash’s daughter and director of “Industrial Accident,” wrote in an e-mail. “The fact that they have been able to thrive in Denver for 40 years is not only a testament to them, but also speaks to how solid the counterculture community remains in Denver.”

And it’s a tribute to Wax Trax’s native roots that the Denver premiere is one thing particular; along with the filmmakers, the panel after Friday night time’s screening will function Lifeless Kennedys legend — and Boulder native — Jello Biafra, Groovie Mann of Thrill Kill Kult and Ministry’s Al Jourgensen, who selected Denver to make his first look selling the movie due to his personal deep Colorado ties.

“Defining moment of my life”

Jourgensen, now 60, graduated from Frisco’s Summit High Faculty in 1976, stumbled via a bit of school in Greeley and Boulder, and acquired his baptism-by-punk by way of an early Ramones efficiency at Denver’s long-gone Ebbets Subject nightclub.

“I didn’t know if I was a redneck or a punk rocker yet,” Jourgensen says of that night time in 1977. “I mean, I’d been shooting pool in Silverthorne earlier that day. But I came away convinced. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. That was the defining moment of my life and my career, right there at Ebbets Field.”

At that very same present: Wax Trax’s Flesher and Nash, together with a younger Eric Boucher, who hadn’t but adopted his stage persona of Jello Biafra. Jourgensen didn’t know any of them but, and by no means visited the Denver Wax Trax retailer beneath its unique possession. (He says he “tries to make a pilgrimage” to the present retailer every time he’s on the town with Ministry, which, by the way, performs the Fillmore Auditorium on Nov. 24.)

Biafra, although, was conscious of the unique retailer, which Nash and Flesher opened at 1409 Ogden St. underneath the still-to-be-tweaked identify Wax Tracks. He’d seen an advert for the store in Boulder’s Colorado Every day newspaper that featured a picture of a Yardbirds report.

“I thought, ‘Well, this isn’t another store pumping Firefall and Scientology-fueled jazz crap. This could be good,’ ” Biafra recollects.

When he began frequenting the Ogden Road retailer, although, Biafra discovered one thing extra thrilling than the Yardbirds: a wholesome choice of vinyl singles imported from the U.Okay.’s burgeoning punk scene. Plus the store supported Denver’s underground music scene, catering to native musicians and serving to placed on stay exhibits.

Biafra says Wax Trax might have been the primary U.S. outlet to hold the Intercourse Pistols’ “Anarchy in the U.K.” single, and it’s the place he heard The Damned’s “Neat Neat Neat” for the primary time.

“Oh my God, this is good,” Biafra recollects considering as the 45 spun within the retailer. “What is this?”

A observe written by a Jello Biafra impersonator (dated four/23/04) with a retort written by the precise Jello Biafra (dated 1-25-05) within the restroom at Wax Trax on Wednesday, October 31, 2018. Wax Trax, a Denver landmark, has been working for greater than 40 years. House owners Duane Davis and Dave Stidman purchased the shop 40 years in the past and left behind careers as social staff. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Submit)

“A communications center”

In 1978, Nash and Flesher moved Wax Trax to the nook of East 13th Avenue and Washington Road, the place it stays to today, its home windows darkened edge-to-edge by taped-up flyers and live performance posters. A couple of months later, betting that Chicago would supply larger alternative, they bought the Denver retailer to Davis and Stidman, a pair of report collectors who, on the time, have been doing social work for Jefferson County. (“Dave talked to me because I was the only person who knew who the 13th Floor Elevators were,” Davis says.)

They paid about $20,000 for the report store, Davis believes.

“They wanted to sell to somebody who would carry on the tradition that they’d started, and they agreed that we could be those people,” Stidman says. Davis provides: “When they sold us the business, they were selling us the store’s reputation. What we bought was the name.”

That deal got here with simply $100 in stock, so Stidman and Davis labored to construct the shop again up. Although their very own tastes had centered on the ’50s and ’60s rock they grew up on, they, like Flesher and Nash, have been excited by what they have been listening to popping out of England. They scoured the weekly British music papers — the New Musical Categorical, Melody Maker and Sounds — for concepts, and commenced ordering punk, post-punk and new wave titles.

It helped, too, that Denver’s Rainbow Music Corridor was bringing considerably edgier bands like Speaking Heads, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Joe Jackson, Pretenders and The Remedy to Denver.

“We were the place people already associated with those bands, so their labels started to pay attention,” Davis says. “One of the ingredients in our success was that focus on independent music, and, in particular, import music from England. We became a communications center, an information center, for this kind of music, and the people that were interested in it.”

Skinheads and dive bars

Visiting Wax Trax at the moment, on pre-gentrified Capitol Hill, was a a lot dicier proposition. Davis and Stidman keep in mind bullet-pierced home windows, vacant storefronts and characters fencing stolen items throughout the best way. Then there have been the skinheads, who harassed individuals on the road — and within the retailer.

The blocks round Wax Trax have been full of dives like the three.2 bar Malfunction Junction, liquor shops and a store truly referred to as Dangerous TV Restore. Shootings have been an entire lot extra routine.

“Capitol Hill was a lot tougher then,” Stidman says.

Marilyn Megenity, proprietor of Denver’s Mercury Cafe, fondly recollects when her venue was close to Wax Trax within the ’80s, and introduced in punk and hardcore acts like Hüsker Dü, Black Flag and Dangerous Brains.

“We had so much fun because music promoters were not really hip to the great music in the ’80s,” she says. “All kinds of bands and agents were cold-calling me to see if they could do a show. If I didn’t know who the band was, I just called Wax Trax across the street and I’d say, ‘Should I book this band?’ And they’d say, ‘Oh my God, yes.’ ”

Within the pre-internet 1980s and early ’90s, unbiased document shops actually did serve a group perform, providing sanctuary to like-minded listeners and a spot to study and talk about the music they weren’t seeing on MTV or listening to on business FM. This was a time when seemingly primary info — like, say, the discharge date of the subsequent Minutemen album — wasn’t only a click on away.

The plastic dividers in Wax Trax’s bins, nonetheless bearing handwritten lists of the corresponding artists’ discographies, stay a testomony to that, even as consumers can now simply hit up Discogs on their telephones.

“In some ways, we’re just a record store,” Davis says. “But back then, we were part of what helped people define who they wanted to be.”

Worker Dave Wilkins takes stock of data at Wax Trax on Wednesday, October 31, 2018. Wax Trax, a Denver landmark, has been working for greater than 40 years. House owners Duane Davis and Dave Stidman purchased the shop 40 years in the past and left behind careers as social staff. (AAron Ontiveroz, The Denver Publish)

“This might be it”

Wax Trax’s business heyday within the early-to-mid-’90s noticed Stidman and Davis working three totally different storefronts of their constructing on the south aspect of 13th and one other, Throughout the Trax, on the north aspect of the road. On prime of that, Wax Trax’s Boulder outpost for a quick time consisted of two separate shops on College Hill.

By the late ’90s, although, monetary fortunes started to show for Wax Trax, like so many chain and indie shops, first as big-box retailers like Greatest Purchase undercut music outlets by providing below-cost CDs as loss-leaders to get clients of their doorways in hopes of promoting them fridges and residential computer systems.

Then got here Napster. The explosion in on-line filesharing wrought by that renegade community and successors Kazaa and LimeWire stored increasingly of Wax Trax’s CD consumers at bay.

The house owners started consolidating their Denver places, finally squeezing into the 2 present storefronts, they usually closed store in Boulder. “That scared us,” Davis says of the choice to go away Boulder. “If you can’t have a record store in the middle of the hip part of a college town and not be making money, that’s bad.”

By 2003, Davis and Stidman — who correctly determined within the mid-’80s to purchase the single-story brick constructing that homes Wax Trax — needed to borrow cash simply to cowl their property tax invoice.

“Down, down, down,” Stidman says of Wax Trax’s retail outlook on the time. “There was a point we realized the building was worth more than what we were doing here as a business.”

Their inertia, although, would save them. “Dave and I are such slow movers, by the time we decided this might be it, the vinyl revival was just starting to get going,” Davis says.

Stidman provides: “We were always close to the bone. Keep putting money back into the business. That’s the secret. That, and buying this building.”

The lifeline

Vinyl has been a lifeline for shops like Wax Trax and, whereas gross sales are rising nationally, the format nonetheless represents a smaller slice of the music-industry pie than CDs. However for many who purchase vinyl — a gaggle that’s defied stereotypes by rising to incorporate youthful, and much more feminine, collectors in recent times — Wax Trax stays a haven.

“This is just a tremendous place for Denver,” says Bob Sorrentino, a Westminster document collector who checks the 45 packing containers and vinyl bins at Wax Trax about as soon as week. “I’m walking out empty handed today, but that’s not usually the case.”

Whereas shipments of CDs to report shops fell 6 % in 2017 to $1.1 billion, in response to year-end figures from the Recording Business Affiliation of America, vinyl rose 10 % to $395 million. General, bodily music gross sales fell four % in 2017 to $1.5 billion, nonetheless solely a fraction of the $7 billion in digital-music income.

Vinyl’s rise stays dwarfed by the prevailing CD market, even when that format is believed to be in its dying spiral. Labels shipped 15.6 million vinyl data final yr — however greater than 5 occasions as many CDs.

At Wax Trax, vinyl now accounts for 85 % to 90 % of the shop’s product sales. That’s left Davis and Stidman going spherical and spherical about what to do with their CD-filled, however customer-light, flagship retailer. Transfer the new vinyl out of the annex into that area? Or is that too complicated, since used vinyl would nonetheless be two doorways down? Simply hold the established order within the occasion of an unlikely CD revival?

They will’t determine. It’s a standard lure that the 2, now of their early 70s, fall into. And, they consider, it’s an enormous a part of why Wax Trax continues to be in enterprise. They are saying they’ll hold going “as long as this lasts.”

“Dave and I will get together and say, ‘Let’s diversify our product line,’ ” Davis says, “and we’ll just scratch our heads and say, ‘Let’s just buy some more records.’ ”


In the event you go

What: “Industrial Accident: The Story of Wax Trax! Records” on the Denver Movie Pageant
When: 6:45 p.m. Friday and 9 p.m. Saturday
The place: Sie FilmCenter, 2510 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
And so forth.: Panel following the Friday night time screening will function director Julia Nash, screenwriter Mark Skillicorn and musicians Al Jourgensen (Ministry), Jello Biafra (Lifeless Kennedys) and Groovie Mann (My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult
Information: denverfilm.org

What: Jello Biafra’s Extremely Unusual Dance Get together
When: 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday
The place: Lion’s Lair, 2022 E. Colfax Ave., Denver
Information: lionslairco.com